Theatre West Presents “The Long Gravel Road.”
Written and Performed by Abbott Alexander.
Original Sound and Score by Garrett Parks.
Produced by Linda Pace.
Running May 4 through June 1, Saturdays at 8pm
Theatre West, 333 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90068
This is a play that is difficult to explain…but in the best possible way.
It’s a one-man show, but with two men on stage. It’s a memoir, at least I think it is, but it flits from present to past and then future without a linear narrative. It’s musical, but the songs, although familiar, are spat or growled or whispered. It unfolds, but more like an intricate piece of origami that someone has been pleating for decades in ever tighter overlaps than a map to a life. It’s a howl at the moon, but it remains intimate and quietly profound. “The Long Gravel Road” is gorgeously perplexing, hard to define, and therefore utterly impossible to forget.
Abbott Alexander is a veteran actor of the stage and screen. His father, Philip Abbott, was a well-loved Hollywood character actor whose many films include “The Invisible Boy” (cult classic), “Bachelor Party,” “Spiral Road” and “Sweet Bird of Youth,” as well as the long-running FBI TV series. On stage, Alexander has a beguiling presence, a gravitas and the ability to morph from calm to explosive in an instant. This piece of theatre is full of memories and personal references that go unexplained but nonetheless are incredibly vivid and real, astonishingly moving and wonderfully funny.
“The Long Gravel Road” begins as a youthful stroll down a path at the earliest time of the morning when the light has barely dawned. It ends with a slow, tremulous aged meander to retrieve that same paper at that same moment. Neither journey is neat. Neither journey a straight line on an ordered path. Both stop and start and weave about a life, full of anecdotes and repeated clips of films or poems or songs or dreams. Nothing stands still for a moment and nothing feels the same even when Abbott circles back, which he often does, to complete a thought.
This is more of a poem than a monologue. It has that same ability to magically transport one. To grab one’s soul and tickle it into submission while it breaks our hearts and fills us with longing for our own near and distant past.
I loved this play. It’s performed with energy, beauty and inspiring candor. As Alexander’s sweat drips from his ever moving and dancing and twisting body, he breathes out truths. Accompanied by his clearly brilliant musical friend Garrett Parks, he creates an imperfect doorway into his consciousness, a glimpse inside his mind and perhaps, a little of his heart. We are left reeling from the experience, transfixed and transported and ultimately breathlessly elated by such an open heart and an intricate mind of an inspired storyteller. It reminded me of “Under Milk Wood,” the way it stirs the heart, soothes the soul, and reminds us how we are all so much alike really, in all the most important ways. Brilliant!